If you are signed up for the WWE text alerts, you may have been woken up at 7 a.m. Saturday by a text announcing that Japanese wrestling star KENTA had signed with the WWE.
For those who are unfamiliar with KENTA (Kenta Kobayashi, not to be confused with his mentor, Kenta Kobashi) he is one of Japan’s biggest stars, and has influenced many of today’s wrestlers. His hybrid wrestling/mixed martial arts style has rubbed off on many.
Merging kickboxing and wrestling, he is known for being one of the best strikers in wrestling today. Many wrestlers have used and adapted his moves: CM Punk started using the Go To Sleep finisher because of KENTA, and Daniel Bryan’s Yes Lock and running knee were also moves that were used heavily by KENTA.
While he wrestled primarily for Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan, he also spent time in Ring of Honor, where he put on great matches with the likes of Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Low-Ki and Davey Richards.
In the news release from the WWE Saturday morning, Triple H was quoted as saying, “Kenta is an incredible performer who brings the crowd to its feet when he steps into the ring. WWE’s signing of Kenta reflects our continued dedication to creating a diverse roster that appeals to our global fan base.”
“I am humbled to join WWE’s NXT division and look forward to honing my craft with the global leader in sports entertainment,” KENTA said in the statement.
It will be interesting to see how exactly KENTA is used in the WWE. He’s 33 and with his physical ring style, his prime may already be past him. Like he said in the press release, he will be spending time in NXT first, which is an important decision in my mind. The last time a foreign wrestler was hyped this much was when Mistico, who became Sin Cara, was signed. He didn’t spend much time in NXT, and had a hard time adapting to the WWE style.
While KENTA is already more suited to the WWE style than Mistico was, due to his time spent in ROH and his in-ring style, the ability to spend time down in NXT to truly learn the differences should help immensely. The one big question is how the WWE will use him on the main roster.
The WWE has never been great with their use of Japanese wrestlers. From Hakushi to Tajiri to Kaientai to Yoshi Tatsu, the list is pretty long as to the Japanese wrestlers who came in and didn’t succeed in the WWE.
Now, it’s a fair question as if to whether they were misused or had problems for other reasons, whether it was a language barrier, size or style, but the success rate in the WWE is fairly low for Japanese wrestlers.
KENTA is different, as his style lends itself more to the current WWE product, and he has a firmer grasp of English. So if given a chance to rise, he could certainly take that chance and run with it.
There are more big names who could potentially sign with the WWE in upcoming weeks. The biggest name is probably Ring of Honor’s Kevin Steen. While he hasn’t signed yet, his contract is running out at Ring of Honor, and his last match was announced for July 19. It seems to be just a formality at this point before he signs.
Meanwhile, Prince Devitt, who is one of Europe’s most well-known wrestlers, has been rumored to be nearing a deal with the WWE. Both of them should join KENTA down in NXT and, if pushed, NXT could suddenly become the most interesting wrestling show on television (for those who didn’t believe this was the case already).
To have three well-known wrestlers signed in such a short time is definitely going to add some interest to NXT and the WWE in upcoming months. The question remains how they’ll used and if they succeed, but if they do, it could signal a drastic change in how the WWE is perceived by fans of independent and foreign wrestling.
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